29 August, 2010

Margaret of Scotland, Queen of Norway

A new blog feature, where I look at the lives of some of Edward II's first cousins. Today, it's Margaret of Scotland, queen of Norway (February 1261 - April 1283). I hope the post isn't too confusing, with three successive generations of women named Margaret!

Margaret was the eldest child of Alexander III, king of Scotland (September 1241 - March 1286) and Margaret of England (September 1240 - February 1275), daughter of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence and sister of Edward I. Alexander and Margaret (who was probably named after her aunt Marguerite of Provence, queen of France) married in York on 26 December 1251, when he was ten and she eleven; he had succeeded his father Alexander II in July 1249, and his kingdom was being ruled by a squabbling group of regents during his minority. The Lanercost chronicler calls Margaret of England, queen of Scotland, "a woman of great beauty, chastity, and humility." [1] Henry III and Queen Eleanor, a couple I otherwise find it very hard to warm to, were, for all their numerous faults, devoted parents: on learning that Margaret was deeply miserable, kept apart from her youthful husband and little more than a prisoner of Alexander's regents, they themselves rode up to Edinburgh to set matters to rights. Her natal family, which also included her younger siblings Beatrice and Edmund, appears to have been devoted to each other and to have spent as much time together as possible, and at some point Margaret received a "cup of gold with feet" from her brother Edward I, which was apparently returned to him after her death, as it appears in his Wardrobe account of 1276/77. [2]

Alexander III and Queen Margaret visited England in the autumn of 1260; Margaret was met at St Albans by her fifteen-year-old brother Edmund (who eighteen or so years later became the father of Thomas of Lancaster), and was reunited not only with her parents but with her uncle Richard of Cornwall, king of Germany, and his second wife, Eleanor of Provence's sister Sanchia. (The Flores Historiarum waxes lyrical about this meeting of three kings and three queens.) [3] Margaret discovered during the trip that she was several months pregnant, and asked her husband for permission to stay in England with her parents until after she gave birth. Alexander agreed, but, understandably reluctant to leave his newborn child, possibly the future king of Scotland, under the control of the king of England - father-in-law or no - requested on 30 September 1260 that Henry III make the following oath:

"Should the mother [Queen Margaret] die, he promises to return the child, and should the child die, to let the mother return freely. Should the king its father die, or other unforeseen event occur to him, the king [Henry] promises that the bishops of St Andrews, Aberdeen, Dunblane and Whithorn, the earls of Fife, Buchan, Strathearn, Dunbar and Mar, and John Comyn, Alexander the Steward of Scotland, Alan Doorward and Hugh Abernethy, barons, or any four or three of them, shall receive and take the child to Scotland, the state of neither country being taken into consideration." [4]

And so Margaret of Scotland was born at Windsor Castle on 28 February 1261, her mother then twenty and her father, who had returned to his kingdom the previous November, nineteen. Henry III had promised to return Queen Margaret and her child to Scotland by Easter Sunday, 24 April 1261, but in the end - perhaps because of complications or an illness after childbirth or the young queen's reluctance to leave her parents and her homeland - they remained in England until the end of May. Margaret of Scotland was probably the eldest of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence's grandchildren (precisely when Edward I and Eleanor of Castile's first child was born is unclear, though they certainly had a daughter by 1264). Inevitably, little is known of her childhood. Her brother, named after their father and the heir to the Scottish throne, was born on 21 January 1264, and after a very long gap, another brother, David, was born on 20 March 1273, four months after the death of their grandfather Henry III. The two elder children met their uncles Edward and Edmund in the summer of 1267, when the young men visited Scotland; this was Longshanks' first visit to that country, though most definitely not his last, as decades later he was to turn his late brother-in-law's kingdom into a war zone. Marion Campbell says "There was no protocol for English state visits to Scotland - most such visitations had not been of a social nature - and Edward and Edmund came informally." [5]

Margaret of Scotland lost her mother just before her fourteenth birthday: Margaret of England, queen of Scotland, died on 26 February 1275 at the age of only thirty-four. By unhappy coincidence, her younger sister Beatrice, wife of the duke of Brittany's heir, also died less than a month later, to the grief of their mother Eleanor of Provence. The Lanercost chronicler, who although frequently a useful source for Scottish events was unfortunately also prone to writing rubbish on occasion, wrote "Richard of Inverkeithing, bishop of Dunkeld, departed from the world, treacherously poisoned, and it is believed by many that the aforesaid queen [Margaret] perished in the same manner." [6] Although the cause of Margaret's death is unknown, there is absolutely no reason to give credence to this allegation. King Alexander III remained a widower for the next decade, which would prove with hindsight to have been a most unwise decision.

King Magnus VI of Norway, whose father Haakon IV Alexander III had defeated at the battle of Largs in 1263, died on 9 May 1280, and within weeks Alexander had opened negotiations for Magnus's grandson and heir Erik II to marry Margaret. Erik was born sometime in 1268, so was at least seven years younger than Margaret and at the time of the wedding negotiations only eleven or twelve to her nineteen; despite his striking nickname of 'Priest-Hater', he seems to have grown up to be a rather mild and ineffectual young man. Here's how the Lanercost chronicle reports the negotiations: "At this time the king of Norway died, leaving as successor his son called Magnus [sic]; who hearing that the king of Scotland had an amiable, beautiful and attractive daughter, a virgin, of suitable age for himself (being a handsome youth of about eighteen [sic] years) could not rest until a formal mission, divines as well as nobles, had been sent twice to obtain her as his spouse and consort on the throne." [7] Margaret's feelings about marrying a boy a few years her junior are a matter for speculation, though she did send a letter (in French) to her "very dear uncle" Edward I sometime in 1280 - whether before or after the marriage negotiations is hard to say, as she didn't date the letter - telling him that she was "healthy and cheerful" (saine et haite) by God's mercy. She ended by wishing Edward "a thousand greetings," mile saluz, and requested that he constantly inform her of his own health and his wishes towards her. [8]

The wedding negotiations were completed on 25 July 1281, and Margaret sailed from Leith on 11 August with a huge dowry of 14,000 marks, arriving in Bergen on 15 August; among those accompanying her were the earl and countess of Menteith and the abbot of Balmerino. She was greeted in her new land with "demonstrations of great joy." Her wedding to thirteen-year-old Erik, and her coronation as queen of Norway, both took place at the Mariakirken in Bergen on 31 August; a wedding hymn in Latin has fortuitously survived, the first stanza of which Marion Campbell translates as: "From you has risen, o gentle Scotland, a light which gleaming Norway truly acknowledges, at whose transit you sigh deeply because your king's daughter is taken from you." Little can be said about Margaret's rather brief tenure as queen of Norway, though she appears to have been very popular, and was said in her new country to be "she who made our king a man." [9] She became pregnant in the summer of 1282; one might speculate that Erik's fourteenth birthday, at which age he would have been considered old enough to consummate his marriage, had recently passed.

Tragedy struck in early 1283: Margaret of Scotland, queen of Norway, died on 9 April (or 28 February, her birthday, according to Lanercost), aged twenty-two, shortly after giving birth to a daughter. King Erik II was now a father and a widower at the age of only fourteen or fifteen. Their daughter was named Margaret after Margaret herself and her mother the queen of Scotland - Erik's daughter by his second wife, Robert Bruce's sister Isabel, was named Ingiborg after his own mother - and is known to history as the Maid of Norway. The Lanercost chronicler, who for some reason really had it in for poor Alexander III - who has always struck me as a very pleasant and likeable man, as well as a strong and excellent king - blames Margaret's death on her father and says that it came about "in order that God's long-suffering should by many afflictions soften to a proper degree of penitence the heart of the father through whose wrong-doing these things came to pass." He also blames the early deaths of Alexander's queen and his sons on Alexander's "sin." [10] Strange.

Further tragedy struck Alexander III, and Scotland, in January 1284, when his elder son Alexander died a few days after his twentieth birthday (the king's younger son David had died aged only eight in 1281). Young Alexander was married to yet another Margaret, one of the many daughters of Guy de Dampierre, count of Flanders, but left no children. (Guy's daughter Philippa was betrothed to the future Edward II some years later, with her sister Isabella as 'back-up'.) Edward I granted Margaret, called the widow of 'Monseignur Alexandre', a safe-conduct to return through England to Flanders on an unspecified date, at the request of her father Count Guy. [11] According to Lanercost, young Alexander prophesied shortly before he died that "My uncle [Edward I] shall fight three battles; twice he will conquer; in the third he will be overthrown." [12] I bet lots of people, then and now, wish that prophecy had come true.

This left Queen Margaret of Norway's baby daughter Margaret the Maid of Norway as sole heir to her grandfather, as Alexander III acknowledged in a letter to his brother-in-law Edward I on 20 April 1284, five days before the birth of Edward II in Caernarfon: "though death has carried off all of his [Alexander's] blood in Scotland, one yet remains, the child of his own dearest daughter the king's [Edward's] niece, the late queen of Norway, now under divine providence the heir apparent of Scotland." All thirteen Scottish earls and countless barons including the Bruces, Balliols and Comyns, however reluctantly, acknowledged the Maid as heir apparent to the Scottish throne at a meeting held in Scone on 5 February 1284: "...we shall all receive our illustrious child Margaret, daughter of the daughter of our said lord king, Margaret of good memory, sometime queen of Norway, by the illustrious Lord Erik king of Norway; and as she descends with full legitimacy we shall receive her as our lady and right heir of our said lord king..." [13]

To have a baby foreigner, female to boot, as sole heir to the throne was hardly a desirable situation, and Alexander III married for a second time in October 1285, a French noblewoman named Yolande or Joleta de Dreux - his mother Marie de Coucy, second queen of Alexander II, was also French - in order to sire more children. He was riding to see Queen Yolande on 19 March 1286 during a terrible storm, when his horse fell off a cliff and he died of a broken neck. Alexander was still only forty-four, a vigorous and extremely able man in the prime of life, and his early death was to have disastrous consequences for Scotland. His little granddaughter died at the age of seven on her way to her kingdom and marriage to the future Edward II in the autumn of 1290; three centuries of conflict and bloodshed between Scotland and England were to be the tragic result.


1) The Chronicle of Lanercost 1272-1346, ed. Herbert Maxwell, p. 9.
2) Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland 1272-1307, p. 21.
3) Flores Historiarum, ed. H.R, Luard, vol. II, pp. 459-460.
4) Marion Campbell, Alexander III, King of Scots, p. 122.
5) Campbell, Alexander III, p. 172.
6) Lanercost, pp. 9-10.
7) Ibid., p. 21.
8) Cal Docs Scot, p. 60.
9) Campbell, Alexander III, pp. 214-216, for the wedding hymn, quotation and Margaret's dowry and journey.
10) Lanercost, pp. 9, 32.
11) Cal Docs Scot, p. 73.
12) Lanercost, p. 32.
13) Cal Docs Scot, p. 73; Campbell, Alexander III, pp. 219-221.

22 August, 2010

Edward II And English

Following a recent post about Edward II's use of French and Latin, here's one about his use of the language spoken by the vast majority of his subjects: English. Unfortunately, direct evidence to tell us to what extent Edward spoke and understood the language is lacking. Edward I's biographers Michael Prestwich and Marc Morris, however, say that Edward I learned English from a young age from his tutors and nurses, and Edward I's uncle Richard, earl of Cornwall, also spoke the language, as demonstrated by a statement in the chronicle of Matthew Paris - who knew Richard well - which says with reference to Richard's election as king of Germany in 1257 that he would have no problems learning German, as he already knew English. [1] Edward II's son Edward III certainly had at least some knowledge of English, as he used the language for his personal slogans at jousting tournaments far more often than he used French [2], though how well he spoke it or how often is impossible to say for sure.

Given that Edward II's father and son knew English, it is highly likely that he did too. Edward was criticised by various fourteenth-century chroniclers for enjoying the company of the lowborn, which is borne out by other evidence: he went on holiday for an entire month in the autumn of 1315 with "a great concourse of common people"; he drank in Newcastle with an unnamed but evidently lowborn woman in 1310; he dined privately in 1325 with a group of carpenters, and a group of sailors on another occasion; he went to a forge to talk to his blacksmith John Cole in 1323; he spent what seems like excessive amounts of time in the 1320s chatting to fishermen and often bought fish from them "with his own hands." There are numerous other such examples. Carpenters, fishermen, blacksmiths and the like would not have spoken French, and I find it hard to imagine that Edward would have taken as much pleasure as he obviously did in the company of the lowborn, and spent as much time with them, if he'd had to rely on interpreters to communicate with them. Although direct evidence is lacking, it seems to me that Edward II must have enjoyed a fluent command of English.

I find it interesting to see that English words occasionally crept into French texts of the early fourteenth century. I've written about Edward's Household Ordinance of 1318, where 'hackneyman' and 'cup house', among others, appear in English. In Edward I's 1306 order that the countess of Buchan should have one or two English women to attend her in her cage on the walls of Berwick Castle, the word 'English' is written in English (Englesche) rather than in French (engleis). Edward II's chamber account of 1325 records a gift of forty-seven caged goldfinches for his niece Eleanor Despenser, written in French with 'goldfinches' in English: xlvij Goldfynches en vne cage. Other English words crept into the chamber journal, such as 'shipbord' and 'shipwreghtes' (shipwrights). I wonder why; was there no equivalent French word, or did the clerk writing the journal just not know it?

The nobility of the early fourteenth century wrote their letters in French, and Edward II's letters were usually in French though sometimes (when writing to correspondents outside England) in Latin, but neither the king nor his nobles ever wrote in English, and therefore, as Seymour Phillips has pointed out, the great difficulty in establishing how much English they knew lies in 'catching them at it'. [3] I've written before about Hugh Despenser the Younger's literacy in French: various letters of his written in 1324 make clear that he read his correspondents' letters out loud to Edward II, though the extent of his literacy and ability in English remains unknown. Sometimes the concept of how bilingualism in fourteenth-century England worked in practice intrigues me; the charges against Despenser at his (so-called) trial of November 1326 in Hereford were written in French and presumably were also delivered in that language, not least because if they'd been read out in English it's doubtful that Isabella of France would have understood them. (Did Isabella learn any English? I have no idea.) Yet chroniclers record that a great roar of approval went up from the watching crowd when Despenser's death sentence was read out. As most of these people were not of the nobility and wouldn't have understood the French, does this mean that an interpreter was simultaneously translating the charges into English for their benefit?

To what extent, or whether at all, Edward II and his court used English as a means of communication among themselves is impossible to say for sure. Various scholars claim that although French was the daily language of the law courts and of baronial administration, by about the middle of the thirteenth century it had become an acquired language in England, and that most French speakers were native speakers of English; Michael Prestwich describes the French spoken in England in this period as "an increasingly artificial language, lacking the vitality to change and develop," in contrast to English. [4] The marvellous Henry of Grosmont, duke of Lancaster, Edward II's kinsman and one of my favourite people of the fourteenth century, wrote a treatise in French called Le Livre de Seyntz Medicines, the Book of Holy Medicines, in 1354. He wrote at the beginning "if the French is not good, I must be excused, because I am English and not much accustomed to French" (si le franceis ne soit pas bon, jeo doie estre escusee, pur ceo qe jeo sui engleis et n’ai pas moelt hauntee le franceis). Obviously this was a literary device to demonstrate Henry's modesty, as his French was completely fluent, even cultured. I can only speculate as to the fluency or otherwise of Henry's English, however, and it's worth pointing out that, whether he spoke much English in his daily life or not and whether it was his first language or not, French, in the middle of the fourteenth century, was still the language he chose to write in. It's interesting to compare Hugh Despenser the Younger, whose many extant letters are all in French, with his grandson Thomas, Lord Berkeley (1353-1417), for whose benefit John Trevisa translated the Polychronicon from Latin - into English, not French.

I'm going to end this rather hotch-potchy post with a couple of paragraphs about a text called Le Tretiz, The Treatise, written by Walter de Bibbesworth in about 1250 for Dionysia (Denise) de Munchesney, the stepmother of Joan, countess of Pembroke (1230s-1307), who was the granddaughter of the great William le Marshal and married Henry III's French half-brother William de Valence. The Tretiz was intended to teach Dionysia and her children the specialised French vocabulary they would need for estate management and husbandry. To quote from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, it "consists of approximately 1134 rhyming octosyllables and survives in sixteen manuscripts...The French vocabulary denoting the practices of rural life is equipped in many of the manuscripts with English glosses, the bulk of which stem from the author." What makes the Tretiz so fascinating is the insight it gives into what Bibbesworth expected Dionysia to understand of the French language; he assumes that English is her native language and states that she is already familiar with the fraunceis ki chescun seit dire, "the French which everyone knows" ('everyone' meaning everyone of her class, not everyone in England, presumably), but that he needs to teach her the "French which is not so common," fraunceis noun pas si commoun. The text is in French, and any words which are assumed to be unfamiliar to Dionysia are glossed into English. Bibbesworth himself, a knight of Essex, says that he himself had acquired French in a similar manner. [5]

Here's an example page from the Tretiz. I love line 256, Louwe oule, chein baie, with the first two words glossed into English as wolfe (wolf) and yollez (howls) and the fourth as berkes (barks). Notice that Bibbesworth didn't feel the need to gloss the third word, chein, as 'dog', evidently assuming that Dionysia would know such an everyday word. In lines 250, 275 and 282, every French word is glossed into English, but other lines appear only in French with no English translations: a good indication of the level of French Bibbesworth expected Dionysia to know. As for Edward II a few decades later, he seems to have been entirely comfortable speaking French in public and to have been fluent, articulate and confident in the language - and for sure he must have frequently spoken it in private with the French Isabella and the Gascon Piers Gaveston - but was French his native language, or did he learn English as his mother tongue from the people around him? Was he completely bilingual? I wish I knew...


1) Michael Prestwich, Edward I, p. 6; Marc Morris, A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain, p. 8; N. Denholm-Young, Richard of Cornwall, pp. 86-87; T.W.E. Roche, The King of Almayne, pp. 134-135.
2) Ian Mortimer, The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the English Nation, pp. 199-201, 265.
3) Seymour Phillips, 'The Place of the Reign of Edward II', in The Reign of Edward II: New Perspectives, ed. Gwilym Dodd and Anthony Musson, p. 225, note 30.
4) C.M. Woolgar, The Senses in Late Medieval England, p. 101; Michael Prestwich, Plantagenet England 1225-1360, p. 557.
5) Tony Hunt, Teaching and Learning Latin in Thirteenth-Century England, vol. 1, pp. 13-14.

15 August, 2010

Some Scottish Earls Of Edward II's Reign

Here's a post about six Scottish earls connected to Edward II (I've already written a post about Earl Donald of Mar, a close friend and ally of the king). Firstly, a very quick and rather simplistic overview of Scottish political history of the era: in March 1306, Robert Bruce, earl of Carrick and lord of Annandale, was crowned king of Scots at Scone, a few weeks after stabbing his greatest rival John Comyn, lord of Badenoch, to death in the Greyfriars church in Dumfries. (Comyn was the nephew of John Balliol, king of Scots from 1292 to 1296.) With little support among the Scottish nobility, Robert Bruce fled to the west of Scotland or perhaps to Ireland soon after his coronation. Edward I of England, furious, captured and executed three of Bruce's brothers, several of his brothers-in-law, and a few other Bruce adherents in 1306 and 1307. Bruce's wife Elizabeth, his sisters Mary and Christina, his young daughter Marjorie, young nephew Donald of Mar, the countess of Buchan and the bishops of Glasgow and St Andrews were captured by the earl of Ross and imprisoned in England (Mary Bruce and the countess of Buchan in cages on the walls of castles, nastily). The death of Edward I on 7 July 1307 - he died at Burgh-by-Sands near Carlisle, on his way to campaign against Robert Bruce - and the accession of Edward II made Bruce's attempts to make himself king of Scots in more than name only immeasurably easier. He spent the next few years consolidating his position, a task aided by his defeat of Edward at Bannockburn in June 1314, and the earls and lords of Scotland, over time, either submitted to him and recognised him as king, or removed themselves to England. The Scottish prisoners in England were released after Bannockburn; Donald of Mar chose to remain with Edward II.

Duncan MacDuff, earl of Fife (1289/90-1353)

Donnchadh Mac Dhuibh in Gaelic. Duncan was born in late 1289 or early 1290 as the posthumous son and heir of Earl Duncan, murdered by some of his own followers in September 1289, and through his mother Joan de Clare was the grandson of Gilbert 'the Red', earl of Gloucester (1243-1295), and his first wife Alice de Lusignan. The de Clare siblings Gilbert, Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth, children of Gilbert the Red's second marriage to Edward II's sister Joan of Acre, were thus Duncan's half-uncle and aunts, though they were younger than he was.

Duncan grew up in England, and in the early 1300s Edward I arranged a marriage for him: to the king's granddaughter Mary de Monthermer, eldest child of Ralph de Monthermer and Joan of Acre, second wife of Duncan's grandfather Gilbert the Red. (For the de Clare siblings, this meant, confusingly, that their half-nephew married their half-sister.) Edward II asked Pope Clement V to grant a dispensation for the couple to marry - they were third cousins via common descent from King John's wife Isabella of Angoulême - on 6 September 1307, and this was duly granted a few weeks later, Clement stating that "the marriage is to be contracted as a confirmation of the peace made between the English and the Scots." [1] Mary, Edward's niece, was born in October 1297 and thus was not quite ten at the time; Duncan was seventeen or eighteen. Unfortunately, I don't know when their wedding took place. Their only child, Isabella, wasn't born until around 1320.

As far as I can tell, Duncan seems to have remained in England during the Bannockburn campaign, fighting neither for Robert Bruce not for his uncle-in-law Edward II. Edward granted permission and a safe-conduct in December 1314 for Duncan ('Donkan') to go on pilgrimage to France and to return to England, at the request of his (Duncan's) father-in-law Ralph de Monthermer. [2] At the Cambuskenneth parliament in November 1314, Robert Bruce had declared that any Scottish lords who held lands in England would forfeit their lands and titles in Scotland, and thus Duncan made what must have been a momentous decision and returned, possibly by April 1315 and certainly by October 1316, to the homeland he hadn't seen for many years, to reclaim his earldom, considered the senior earldom in Scotland. [3] His wife Mary was still in England in January 1320, or at least had returned there for a while, but must have travelled to Scotland by May 1321, when Edward granted a safe-conduct for her servants to travel to England "to make purchases in London for her chamber." [4] In August 1317, Edward granted two manors in Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire formerly held by Duncan (his name here spelt 'Donegal de Fyf'), his mother Joan de Clare and stepfather Gervase Avenel to Hugh Despenser the Younger, whose wife Eleanor was Joan's decades-younger half-sister, "because they lately adhered to his [Edward's] Scots enemies." [5]

Duncan supported Robert Bruce for the rest of Bruce's life, and subsequently Bruce's son David II. He died in 1353 in his mid-sixties, leaving an only child, Isabella, and his widow Mary de Monthermer, who lived until at least 1371.

John Comyn, earl of Buchan (1250s-1308)

John was the cousin of John Comyn, lord of Badenoch, killed by Robert Bruce in 1306. His father was Alexander Comyn, earl of Buchan (d. 1289), and his mother Elizabeth was one of the three daughters and co-heirs of Roger de Quincy, earl of Winchester (d. 1285). The Comyns and Bruces were hereditary rivals, and after the murder of the lord of Badenoch, there was of course no chance that John would be anything but an implacable enemy of Robert Bruce. John's wife Isabel, however, a MacDuff by birth and either the sister or aunt of the earl of Fife above (I always thought she was his sister, but the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography says she was his aunt, the daughter of Earl Colban who died c. 1270), crowned Bruce as king of Scotland, which was the hereditary right of the MacDuffs. For this 'crime', Edward I imprisoned her in a cage on the castle wall of Berwick-on-Tweed. John Comyn was the only person who might have persuaded Edward I to release her; presumably furious at her betrayal, he didn't.

John was one of the Scottish lords who swore fealty to Edward II at Dumfries, where his cousin the lord of Badenoch had been killed, in early August 1307. On 20 May 1308, Edward wrote to thank John for his "good service" to him and Edward I, but around this time, John suffered a heavy defeat to Robert Bruce at the battle of Inverurie. [6] He fled to England, and Edward welcomed him, appointing him joint warden of the western marches, that is, Annandale, Carrick and Galloway, the seat of Robert Bruce's power. [7] In John's absence, Bruce ravaged his lands, an act known as the Harrying or Herschip (hardship) of Buchan, to ensure that the Comyns - the most powerful family in Scotland in the thirteenth century - would never rise again. John did not live long after his flight to England: he was dead by 27 November 1308, when the "lands late of John Comyn, earl of Boghhan, deceased, tenant in chief" were taken into the king's hand. Edward granted custody of them, and the marriage of John's heirs, to Hugh Despenser the Elder on 5 December. [8] John left no children, and his heirs were his nieces Alice and Margaret; Alice was a lady-in-waiting of Isabella of France, and married the influential Henry Beaumont, who claimed the earldom of Buchan by right of his wife. John's widow Isabel was released from captivity into Beaumont's care in late April 1313, having been freed from the awful cage a few years before; her subsequent fate is unknown. [9] John Comyn and Isabel MacDuff are major characters in Barbara Erskine's novel Kingdom of Shadows, where John, unfortunately for him, is portrayed as an abusive, violent wife-beater.

Robert Umfraville, earl of Angus (c. 1277-1325)

Second but eldest surviving son of Gilbert Umfraville, earl of Angus (who died shortly before 13 October 1307), and, through his mother Elizabeth, the nephew of John Comyn, earl of Buchan (above) and first cousin of Patrick, earl of Dunbar (below). The Umfravilles were English barons who inherited the earldom of Angus through Robert's grandmother Maud, countess of Angus in her own right, who married Gilbert Umfraville of Northumberland. Robert's father Gilbert, who was born in about 1245, was the ward of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester. Robert's elder brother, Gilbert III, who died childless in about 1303, was married to Margaret de Clare, later Lady Badlesmere. As his brother pre-deceased their father, Robert succeeded as earl.

Robert served Edward II faithfully throughout his reign. The king appointed him and William Ros on 8 November 1307 to "defend the county of Northumberland against the incursions of the king's enemies and to punish rebels," i.e. the Scots, and in June 1308 appointed them "to be the king's lieutenants and keepers in Scotland," a demonstration of his great trust in Robert. [10] Robert fought for Edward at Bannockburn in 1314 with his younger brother Ingram, and both of them were captured at Bothwell Castle after the battle with Edward's brother-in-law the earl of Hereford and held in Scotland for about a year. Unlike Duncan MacDuff of Fife, Robert chose to settle in England rather than Scotland after Robert Bruce's Cambuskenneth declaration of November 1314, although the earldom of Angus technically remained in his hands until near the end of Bruce's reign, when Bruce finally granted it to Sir John Stewart of Bunkle. [11]

Edward gave Robert Umfraville a silver cup as his New Year gift in 1317/18, and Robert took part in the king's unsuccessful siege of Berwick against Robert Bruce in 1319 and accompanied him to France in June 1320, when Edward performed homage to Philip V for his French lands. In November 1320, Robert and the earl of Atholl (see below) were empowered by Edward II to "receive into his peace those Scots who feel their conscience troubled by the Papal excommunication [of Robert Bruce], as secretly as he can, and to attend the king personally if he wishes further instructions." [12] Robert fought for Edward during his campaign against the Contrariants in 1321/22, and was one of the men who condemned the earl of Lancaster to death in March 1322, although he seems - rather oddly, for such a staunch supporter of Edward II - previously to have been a member of Lancaster's retinue (exactly when is unclear). [13] Earl Robert was married firstly to Lucy Kyme, an heiress in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, and secondly to a woman named Eleanor who is believed to have been a member of the de Clare family, though the precise connection remains elusive. He died shortly before 12 April 1325, leaving a fifteen-year-old heir, Gilbert, a daughter and two younger sons. [14]

Patrick of Dunbar, earl of Dunbar (or of March) (c. 1285-c. 1369)

Son of Earl Patrick, who died in 1308 and was known as 'Patrick with the black beard'. Through his mother Marjorie Comyn, the younger Patrick was the nephew of John Comyn, the earl of Buchan above, and was the first cousin of Robert Umfraville, earl of Angus. He was married first to a woman named Ermigarda, who was pregnant in 1304, and secondly to Agnes, daughter of Robert Bruce's ally and friend Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray, who was known as Black Agnes, presumably because of her dark complexion. She was many years his junior, born in about 1312.

Patrick took part in the siege of Caerlaverock Castle in 1300, probably aged fifteen, on Edward I's side, and must have met the future Edward II, who was close to his own age. He remained in Scotland after Robert Bruce's rise to power, but did not submit to Bruce; on 14 December 1307, he was one of the men whom Edward II, "about to set out to Boulogne" to marry Isabella of France, requested to "keep the peace" in Scotland in his absence, along with the earls of Buchan, Ross, Angus and Lennox, two men named Gilbert Glenkarny, Dougal MacDowell, five bishops, nine abbots and several others. [15] Patrick did not fight at Bannockburn in 1314, but helped Edward II after the battle by opening Dunbar Castle to him and finding a boat for the king to sail down the coast to safety. Having - understandably - lost all confidence in Edward, Patrick submitted to Robert Bruce shortly afterwards, and was one of the men who helped take the port of Berwick-on-Tweed from English hands in 1318 and who signed the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath (as did Duncan MacDuff of Fife). Edward II made reference in January 1317 to the "rebellion of Patrick de Dunbar, a Scotsman." [16] The date of Earl Patrick's death is not certain, but he was still alive in June 1368 and had died by 1371, and therefore lived to be over eighty.

Malise of Strathearn, earl of Strathearn (early 1260s-c. 1317)

Maol Íosa in Gaelic. Son of Earl Malise and Maud, daughter of the earl of Orkney and Caithness, Malise succeeded his father as a child in 1271. His wife Agnes (or perhaps Emma) was the sister of John Comyn, earl of Buchan, who was related to absolutely everybody.

Although Malise didn't attend Robert Bruce's coronation as king of Scots, it is possible that he fought on Bruce's side at the battle of Methven in June 1306 - when Edward I's cousin Aymer de Valence, later earl of Pembroke, defeated Bruce - and certainly he was captured around this time and sent to England, where he was imprisoned at Rochester Castle. He claimed that Bruce had captured him and forced him with threats of death to perform homage to him, but to no avail, and Malise spent the rest of Edward I's reign in prison. Edward II ordered the constable of Rochester Castle to send him (his name spelt 'Malisius') to York in November 1307, "under safe custody and honourably, not in irons," and ordered the sheriff of Yorkshire to guard him "without irons." Malise's wife Agnes/Emma shared his captivity, and Edward allowed Malise two servants and two yeomen and Agnes two damsels. They were also allowed a chaplain, who had to be an Englishman. A 'Cristin de Stratherne', presumably a relative, is also mentioned as a prisoner in 1309. [17]

Malise was freed in November 1308, Edward II declaring that he had been loyal to his (Edward's) father and himself and had been acquitted of "evil fame," and judged him "legally competent in all things" (frank de sei en toutes choses). Malise was at Berwick with Edward during the king's Scottish campaign of 1310/11, and in January 1313, Edward paid him ten marks "by his own hands, to account of his allowance from the king." [18] The divided loyalties of the era are illustrated by events of later in 1313: Malise, helping to defend Perth Castle for Edward II, was captured by his own son Malise, who was loyal to Robert Bruce. Bruce spared Malise's life, but compelled him to give up his earldom to his son.

Malise died in or shortly before 1317 leaving four children, including his heir Malise (d. c. 1329) and a daughter Maud, who married the English nobleman Robert de Toeni (1276-1309), brother of the countess of Warwick and one of the men who absconded from the Scots campaign in 1306 to go jousting in France with Piers Gaveston, Roger Mortimer and Giles Argentein. Malise's widow Agnes/Emma was implicated in an unsuccessful plot to murder Robert Bruce in 1320.

David de Strathbogie (or Strabolgi), earl of Atholl (mid to late 1280s-1326)

Son of John de Strathbogie, earl of Atholl and Marjorie, sister of Gratney, earl of Mar; nephew by marriage of Robert Bruce and first cousin of Donald, earl of Mar (Bruce's first wife Isabella, mother of his daughter Marjorie and grandmother of King Robert II, was also Gratney's sister); son-in-law of John Comyn, lord of Badenoch murdered by Bruce in 1306. David's father John was a staunch supporter of Bruce, and was executed by Edward I in London on 7 November 1306. John de Strathbogie was the great-grandson of Richard, one of the illegitimate sons of King John, Edward I's grandfather, and was thus closely related to the king; a relationship which did not prevent Edward hanging John on a high gallows and having him decapitated and his head stuck on London Bridge. John was the first earl to be executed in England since Waltheof in 1076.

David de Strathbogie submitted to Edward I in May 1307 and recovered his father's earldom and lands for a payment of 10,000 marks. At first, he remained loyal to Edward II, who commended him for good service in May 1308, and joined Edward on his Scottish campaign of 1310/11. He switched sides in 1312, however: he was with Edward II in August that year, but attended Robert Bruce's parliament at Inverness three months later, and Bruce appointed him constable of Scotland. Before too long, though, David switched sides again. Supposedly, he was furious with Bruce's brother Edward (yes, yet another one) for seducing his (David's) sister and refusing to marry her, and although he did not fight for Edward II at Bannockburn, he took revenge on the Bruces by attacking the Scottish stores at Cambuskenneth on the eve of the battle; another example of the intensely personal politics of the era.

Thereafter, David remained loyal to Edward II, for which he forfeited his title and lands in Scotland. Edward addressed him affectionately as "the king's cousin Sir Davy," though like the earl of Angus he served in the earl of Lancaster's retinue at some point and was pardoned as an adherent of Lancaster in October 1318. [19] David took part in Edward's campaign against the Marcher lords in 1321/22 as constable of the king's army, and was, with the earl of Angus, one of the men who sentenced the earl of Lancaster to death in March 1322. Edward granted David in December 1321 the castle, manor and honour of Chilham in Kent, the inheritance of his ancestor Rose of Dover, who married King John's illegitimate son Richard; in return, David "binds himself to adhere to the king against all men and to maintain his quarrels against all men." Edward II granted a safe-conduct for a Scotsman with the excellent name of Tassyn de Loran to visit England to speak to David in November 1323, as long as Tassyn didn't come more than ten leagues beyond the Scottish border. [20] David and Edward's nephew-in-law John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, led Edward's army to Gascony in the spring of 1325, during the Anglo-French war of St-Sardos. He died sometime between 18 December 1326, when he was called the "surviving husband" of his wife Joan, and 11 January 1327, when Henry Beaumont was granted custody of his son; his wife Joan Comyn, one of the heirs of her maternal uncle the earl of Pembroke, had died in July 1326. [21] He left a son David, born on 1 February 1309, who married Katherine Beaumont, eldest daughter of Henry Beaumont and Alice Comyn (niece and co-heir of the earl of Buchan) and sister of the duchess of Lancaster. The younger David joined Earl Henry of Lancaster's unsuccessful rebellion against Isabella and Roger Mortimer in 1328/29. [22]


1) Foedera 1307-1327, p. 5; Calendar of Papal Letters 1305-1341, p. 30.
2) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1313-1317, p. 203; Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland 1307-1357, p. 78.
3) G.W.S. Barrow, Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland, . pp. 390-391; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
4) Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, pp. 415, 587.
5) Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, pp. 5-6, 10.
6) Calendar of Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 66; Foedera 1307-1327, p. 45.
7) Cal Docs Scot, p. 9; Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313, p. 92; Cal Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 69.
8) Calendar of Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 32; Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313, p. 95; Cal Docs Scot, p. 12. The lands were first granted to Ralph de Monthermer on 3 December.
9) Cal Close Rolls 1307-1313, p. 529.
10) Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 14, 79, 415. Robert's father's death before 13 Oct 1307 is in Cal Fine Rolls 1307-1319, p. 4.
11) Barrow, Robert Bruce, p. 386.
12) Thomas Stapleton,'A Brief Summary of the Wardrobe Accounts of the tenth, eleventh, and fourteenth years of King Edward the Second', Archaeologia, 26 (1836), p. 344; ODNB; Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, p. 455; Cal Docs Scot, p. 134; Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, p. 280.
13) G.A. Holmes, The Estates of the Higher Nobility in Fourteenth-Century England, pp. 140, 142; J.R. Maddicott, Thomas of Lancaster 1307-1322: A Study in the Reign of Edward II, pp. 56, 274, 312.
14) Cal Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 342.
15) Cal Docs Scot, pp. 5-6.
16) Cal Docs Scot, p. 103.
17) Cal Pat Rolls 1307-1313, p. 19; Cal Close Rolls 1307-1313, pp. 5, 9, 10; Cal Docs Scot, pp. 16-17.
18) Cal Docs Scot, pp. 22, 42, 59.
19) Calendar of Chancery Warrants 1244-1326, p. 427; Cal Pat Rolls 1317-1321, p. 227.
20) Cal Close Rolls 1318-1323, pp. 452, 462, 509-510, 522; Cal Docs Scot, p. 154.
21) Cal Docs Scot, p. 162; Cal Fine Rolls 1319-1327, p. 431.
22) Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-1348, p. 274; Cal Close Rolls 1327-1330, p. 529.

08 August, 2010

The Earl Of Ross Makes A Journey

Here's a post with some really nice details I saw recently in the Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland, taken from the 350-mile journey of William, earl of Ross from London to Berwick-on-Tweed in the autumn of 1303, to join Edward I. [1] Earl William had been a supporter of John Balliol, king of Scotland from 1292 to 1296, and was therefore hostile to the Bruce family; in September 1306 at Tain, William captured the relatives and supporters of Robert Bruce, who had been crowned king at Scone several months earlier, as they were fleeing from Kildrummy in charge of the earl of Atholl (the castle had just fallen to Edward of Caernarfon and Aymer de Valence). William sent them to Edward I, and their subsequent fate is well-known: imprisonment in England for the women and children, two of them in cages on the walls of castles, and execution for the men, including the earl of Atholl. Edward II's accession changed the situation drastically, however: Robert Bruce, having supposedly declared that it was easier to take an entire kingdom from the son than a foot of land from the father, set about making himself king of Scotland in more than name only by attacking his enemies and their lordships, including William of Ross, until they either fled to England (such as the earl of Buchan) or submitted to him. William sent Edward II a desperate letter in 1308, begging for his aid: "May help come from you, our lord, for in you, Sire, is all our hope and trust." It will come as no surprise to anyone to learn that Edward sent no help, and William submitted to Bruce a few months later and remained loyal to him until his (William's) death in 1323. [2]

Anyway, here's the account of the provisions purchased for him and his household on his journey north to meet Edward I from 29 September to 17 October 1303. The abbreviation 'd' means pence, 's' is shillings and 'l' is pounds.

- London, Sunday 29 September 1303: Shoeing the earl's four horses, 2d; four grooms' wages, 6d; William de Whitelay arranging the retinue, harness and others, 12d; making 20lb wax into torches and candles, 10d. Total 3s 4d.

- London, Monday 30 September: The earl started, reaching St Albans the same day. Wastells* for soup, 1d; young pigeons for a roast, 3d [roll mutilated and unreadable]; horse provender, 4 bushels oats, 3s. Total 12s 7d.

[* Wastell: expensive bread made from fine white flour.]

- Dunstaple, Tuesday 1 October: Bread for breakfast there, 8d; three flagons of wine, 12d; beer 6½d; butcher meat, 6d; 6 hens, 9d; larks, 1d; almonds, 2½d; herrings, 1d; hay for horses, 6d; bread for them, 7d; shoeing, 6½d.

- Newport Pagnell, same day: Bread, 8d; wine, 8d, beer, 15d; poultry, 5½d; young pigeons, 5½d; 100 eggs, 4½d; herrings, 1½d; eels and 'pikerells', 20d; mustard for store, 4d; 'vergus', 2d; 'gingibo', 3d; hay for 24 horses, 12d; 4 bushels oats, 3s; lard for the cresset lamp, 1½d; hiring beds, 2d. Total 16s 5d.

- Northampton, Wednesday 2 October: 2lb candles, 2d; salt, 1d; eggs and milk for soup, 3d; 100 herrings, 12d; [hay for horses as above]; bran for a sick palfrey, 1d; litter for beds and horses, 15d; mending and filling new saddles for the earl's palfreys and sumpters, 8d; hire of beds, 2d; mending the fur of the earl's cape, 1d. Total 17s 6½d.

- Suleby, Thursday 3 October: Hay by gift of abbot of...[mutilated] Total 9s 3½d.

- Leicester, Friday 4 October: Herrings, 8d; lampreys, 12d; eels, 6d; horse provender, litter and hire of beds and hay as before, and later in account. Total 13s 4½d.

- Nottingham Saturday 5 October: Flounder, roach and eels, 14d; shaving and washing for the earl, 6d. Total 15s 10½d.

Blyth, Sunday 6 October: Bread for breakfast at Allerton, 10½d; 5 partridges, 10d; baking them, 2d. Total 16s 0½d

- Sherburn, Monday 7 October: Bread for breakfast at Wentbrug, 10d; herrings and cheese for those hungry, 1d; hay and bread for the horses at Doncaster and Wentbrug, 11d; pears, 1d; hire of a hackney for the earl's harness from Blyth to Sherburn, 7d; and its keep, as one of his sumpters could go no further and was delivered to John de Drokensford keeper of the Wardrobe at Blyth. Total 16s 0½d

- York, Tuesday 8 October: 2 flagons of white wine, 10d; red wine, 8d; 4 geese, 15d; lampreys, 2d; roach and perch, 6½d. Total, 18s 6halfd.

- York, Wednesday 9 October: 60 fresh herrings, 8d; haddock and codling, 16d; eels, 8d; roach and dace, 8d; butcher meat for Sir Francis [?], 2d; onions, 1½d; fur for the coverlet of the earl's bed, 7d; mending the coffer of candles, ½d. Total 19s 4d

- York, Thursday 10 October: Swine's flesh, 7d; mutton, 7d; four geese, 14d; and baking them, 2d; hiring dishes for the kitchen, 3d. Total, 15l 0s 3½d.

York, Friday 11 October: Apples and pears, 2d; white peas for soup, 2d; almonds, 1d; salmon, 12d; lampreys, 6d; 'alle' (garlic?) and onions for store, 4d. Total, 12s 3½d.

- Northallerton, Saturday 12 October: Bread for breakfast at Thirsk, 6d; making 'sauf napier', 2d; freshwater fish, 2s; the earl's washing, 6d. Total, 15s 10½d

- Durham, Sunday 13 October: Young pigeons for breakfast and dinner, 9d; larks, 2d; bread and hay for 24 horses on the road at Darlington, 8d; ferrying the earl's horses and baggage at Nesham across the Tees, 3½d. Total, 12s 4½d.

- Newcastle-on-Tyne, Monday 14 October: Mending the earl's hood and furs, 6d; trappings for his palfrey, 16d. Total, 15s 11d.

- Morpeth, Tuesday 15 October: A hood for the earl's palfrey, 1½d; [rest missing]

- Bamburgh, Wednesday 16 October: Bread and hay for the horses on the road at Alnwick, 7d.

- Berwick, Thursday 17 October: Carrying the earl's baggage from the waters of the Tweed to the castle, 3d; ferrying across Tweed, 3d.

- Note: Friday, 18 October: Thomas atte Welle and all the other Londoners and John the candle-bearer, with six horses and six grooms, returned to London. The earl and the others remained at Berwick five days longer, when the account ends.

On 12 December 1303, Earl William of Ross arrived "with his whole retinue" at Perth to meet the nineteen-year-old Edward of Caernarfon, and Edward paid all their expenses "at the king's command." William left on 3 February, and "had by order of the king and council for his expenses, 21 loaves, 18 flagons of wine, 3 beeves, a sheep, 1½ bacon, 500 herrings, 30 cod, and 20lb of wax."


1) Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland 1272-1307, pp. 360-361, 392.
2) G.W.S. Barrow, Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland, pp. 249-252.

01 August, 2010

A Welsh/Scottish Plot To Free Edward Of Caernarfon In 1327

In August 1327, Sir Edward of Caernarfon, formerly King Edward II, was being held in captivity at Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, having been forced to abdicate his throne to his fourteen-year-old son Edward III the previous January. Edward must have been in despair in 1327; he had lost everything, his throne, his freedom, his children, whom he wasn't allowed to see, and his beloved Hugh Despenser, grotesquely executed in November 1326. Although it's hard to deny that Edward had brought most of his misfortunes on himself, it's easy to feel sympathy for him; whatever wrongs he had committed, he was certainly paying for them and then some. The former king was not, however, entirely friendless: in June or July 1327, a gang of men led by the Dunheved brothers managed, at least temporarily, to free him (more information about the men involved here and here). And another plot to free Edward from Berkeley was hatched late that summer by a group of Welsh men, and was betrayed to William Shalford, Roger Mortimer's deputy justiciar of North Wales, shortly before 14 September.

Unfortunately it's impossible to say for certain what the aims of this Welsh plot were - merely to free Edward and hide him somewhere in Wales or abroad, or to attempt a political coup? - how far it had advanced, or how well-equipped and organised the men were (or not). What little is known about it comes from a handful of entries in the chancery rolls, and the records of King's Bench in 1331, when one of the 1327 plotters, Hywel ap Gruffydd, accused William Shalford of complicity in Edward II's murder.

The ringleaders of the 1327 plot were two men who had long been staunchly loyal to Edward II: Sir Gruffydd Llywd (also known as Gruffydd ap Rhys) of North Wales, lord of Dinorwig and Tregarnedd, sheriff of Anglesey and Merioneth, and his kinsman Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd of South Wales, lord of Narberth and sheriff of Carmarthen. There are numerous records throughout Edward II's reign demonstrating how much responsibility and trust the king placed in these two men; he appointed them to search for Roger Mortimer after his escape from the Tower in August 1323, for example, and both men played key roles in Edward's campaign against the Marcher lords in 1321/22. Rhys ap Gruffydd remained loyal to Edward until the very end, and was one of the men Edward sent as an envoy to his wife Isabella on 10 November 1326, a few days before his capture. [1] Edward II was rather popular in Wales, the land of his birth, even long after his death; in the late fourteenth century, the (English, admittedly) chronicler Thomas Walsingham wrote "the Welsh in a wonderful manner cherished and esteemed him, and, as far as they were able, stood by him grieving over his adversities both in life and in his death, and composing mournful songs about him in the language of their country, the memory of which lingers to the present time, and which neither the dread of punishment nor the passage of time has destroyed." [2]

So who were the other men involved in the Welsh plot to free Edward from Berkeley? Sometime before 26 October 1327, thirteen men were imprisoned at Caernarfon Castle (spelling of their names as it appears on the Close Roll): Gruffydd Llywd ('Griffin ap Rees'); Madoc Loithe; Griffin ap Howel; Jorverth ap Griffith; David Vagh'; Llywelin ap Ken'; David ap Ath'; Welim ap Phelif'; Howel ap Luspa; Ken ap Griffith; Ath' ap Eignon; Howel ap Griffith and Jorverth his brother. [3] The Close Roll entry doesn't specify what they had done - not that we would really expect it to - but is merely an order to the justiciar of North Wales, i.e. an order from Roger Mortimer to himself, to have the men "lately taken at Kaernarvan Castle and imprisoned there, to be released by mainprise or for hostages to be delivered to him [Mortimer] for them..." It wasn't until 1331 that the reasons for this imprisonment were made public (see below). These thirteen were prominent men: J.B. Smith has pointed out that "[a]n examination of the names leaves no doubt that the men concerned represented a very powerful force in the community of North Wales. It is at the same time clear that men of South Wales were also deeply implicated." [4] Although the writ of 26 October ordered the release of the men, Gruffydd Llywd at least remained in prison for eighteen months, according to a petition he presented after Mortimer and Isabella's downfall (qil ad este enprisone atort et saunz desert, et puis detenu en la prisone nostre seignur le Roi par un an et demy; "that he had been imprisoned wrongfully and undeservedly, and then detained in our lord the king's prison for one and a half years.") [5] Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd fled to Scotland with some of his co-plotters, who are named on the Patent Roll as (original spelling) Morgan Thloyt ap Rees Kethin; Howelin ap Griffith ap Howel; Herbert de Ferrers; Griffin Waghan ap Griffith ap Gronou; David Vaghan ap David ap Yevan; Howelin Wachel ap Howel and William Hire. [6]

I'm speculating, but I wonder if Rhys and the others went to Scotland in the company of the adherents of Donald, earl of Mar, Robert Bruce's nephew and one of Edward II's closest friends and allies; it was said in the summer of 1327 that Donald's supporters "lately went to Scotland in the company of Dunald de Mar, a rebel, and have returned to do what mischief they can to the king and his realm" (and presumably took themselves off to Scotland again afterwards). Donald of Mar had - like Rhys ap Gruffydd, whom he must have known very well as they were both members of Edward's chamber staff - loyally remained with Edward II until shortly before his capture in November 1326, then fled to the homeland he had barely visited for twenty years. Donald, usually called "the king [Edward III]'s enemy and rebel" after Edward II's deposition, was in the north of England in the summer of 1327 leading one of his uncle Bruce's armies against the new regime, but several of his adherents gathered in the Marches, near both Berkeley and the Welsh border, "to do and procure the doing of what evils they can against the king and his subjects." In short, this meant trying to aid Edward of Caernarfon; the Lanercost chronicler says that Donald "returned to Scotland after the capture of the king, hoping to rescue him from captivity and restore him to his kingdom, as formerly, by the help of the Scots and of certain adherents whom the deposed king still had in England." [7]

Roger Mortimer and Isabella evidently perceived Donald of Mar, nephew of the king of Scots, an earl and a man whose loyalty to the former king was unwavering, as a threat; they ordered the arrest of two of his adherents in Staffordshire in August 1327 merely for sending letters to him, ordered the arrest of several of his other adherents for making 'mischief', and on 14 July told the justice of Chester - Sir Richard Damory, brother of Edward II's former favourite Roger - to keep Richard le Brun, former mayor of Chester, "safely in the king’s prison" for adherence to Donald. (It's interesting to note in this context that the Dunheved brothers and several of their allies, men willing to risk imprisonment, exile and death for Edward of Caernarfon's sake, were in Chester in early June 1327, and Damory was ordered to arrest and imprison them.) [8] Mortimer and Isabella were evidently also keen to see Rhys ap Gruffydd back from Scotland and under their watchful eye, and in February and April 1328 offered him pardons for "disobedience to the king's command to come to him, putting himself beyond the king's power, and adhering to the Scots" three times. The Welshmen who had fled with him were also offered pardons, though only once. [9] Rhys, however, although he demonstrated great loyalty to Edward III for many years after the young king seized power, was not interested in returning to an England and Wales ruled by the dowager queen and her favourite.

Donald, earl of Mar, Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd and Gruffydd Llywd's son Ieuan were also involved in the earl of Kent's plot to rescue the supposedly dead Edward of Caernarfon from Corfe Castle in 1330, and their opposition to Isabella and Mortimer continued even after Kent's execution that March: Adam Murimuth says they were planning an invasion of England, Donald from Scotland and Rhys, with other men hostile to Roger Mortimer and Isabella, from Brabant, whose Duke Jan III was Edward's nephew. The impending invasion forced Isabella and Mortimer to array knights and men-at-arms up and down the country "to set out against certain contrariants and rebels who lately withdrew secretly from the realm and who have assembled a multitude of armed men in parts beyond the sea and have prepared ships of war and other things and who propose entering the realm to aggrieve the king and his people." Mortimer, now justiciar of the whole of Wales (to which position he had appointed himself for life) ordered himself on 8 August 1330 to "arrest and imprison all those of Wales whom he finds to be adhering or consenting to Rhys ap Griffyn...as Rhys is charged with adhering to Edmund de Wodestok, late earl of Kent, and has gone to parts beyond sea without the king's licence, and proposes to enter the realm with certain other enemies with a multitude of armed men, and the king understands that many in Wales, both relations of Rhys and others, are of his confederacy and alliance." [10] I'm afraid I can't help but smile at the fact that Mortimer and Isabella were now facing the same fate, armed invasion against their unpopular regime, that they themselves had inflicted on Edward II, though ultimately it never went ahead and it was Edward III who overthrew them a few weeks later.

Returning to the plot of August/September 1327, somehow William Shalford, Roger Mortimer's deputy justiciar of Wales, got to hear about it, and informed Mortimer. In 1331, Hywel ap Gruffydd accused Shalford "of counselling and encompassing the death of Sir Edward, father of our present lord the king, whom God absolve, who was feloniously and treacherously killed and murdered...on the Monday next after the Nativity of Our Lady in the first year of the reign of our lord the present king [14 September 1327], whom God absolve, at Rhosyr (Newborough) on Anglesey, this same William ordained and had a letter made, and sent it to Sir Roger Mortimer at Abergavenny, in which letter was stated that Sir Rhys ap Gruffydd and others of his faction were assembling their power in North Wales and South Wales [en Northgales et en Southgales], with the assent of some of the magnates of the land of England, to forcibly deliver the said Sir Edward, father of our said lord the king, who was then detained in Berkeley Castle; and he gave him to understand by the said letter that if the said Sir Edward was delivered in any manner, that the said Sir Roger and all his followers would die an evil death, and be completely destroyed. Whereupon the said William, treacherously, as a traitor, by the said letter counselled the said Sir Roger that he should ordain such a remedy regarding the aforesaid things that neither the said Sir Rhys, nor anyone else of England or Wales, would ever think of making his [Edward II's] deliverance." [11] (My translation.)

The usual, or one might even say clichéd, interpretation of all this is that William Shalford's letter inspired Roger Mortimer to order Edward of Caernarfon's murder in order to protect himself and his position; Shalford's letter goes on to say that Mortimer sent William Ockley to Berkeley Castle with the letter, and certainly Ockley was convicted of Edward II's murder in the parliament of November 1330. Edward's fate in 1327, however, and the bizarrely implausible timing of Shalford writing a letter on Anglesey on 14 September, Mortimer in Abergavenny making the decision to murder Edward, sending William Ockley to Berkeley, Edward of Caernarfon being murdered on 21 September and Edward III hearing the news of his father's death in Lincoln on 23 September - that is, a journey of close to 400 miles in nine days, Rhosyr to Abergavenny to Berkeley to Lincoln, crossing the Menai Strait, riding through most of a sparsely-populated, mountainous country, crossing the Severn to Berkeley, riding across a large part of England, in nine days - are topics for another day. I've wittered on enough anyway, and I hope this post has gone some way to demonstrating that Edward of Caernarfon was not completely abandoned and friendless after his deposition. William Shalford's statement (via Edward's ally Hywel ap Gruffydd several years later, admittedly) that Rhys ap Gruffydd and his allies had the "assent of some of the magnates of the land of England," assent dascuns des grantz de la terre Dengleterre, in their plot to free Edward is interesting, no? Even if that is not true, the 1327 plot of the Dunheveds and their allies was also said by a more disinterested observer, the Pauline annalist, to have had the support of "certain magnates." [12] Edward may have lost the support of very many of his subjects in 1326/27; but he was not alone.


1) Calendar of Patent Rolls 1321-1324, p. 335 (their names are spelt Res Apgriffit and Griffin Apres); Cal Pat Rolls 1324-1327, p. 336; J.B. Smith, 'Edward II and the Allegiance of Wales', Welsh History Review, 8 (1976), pp. 159-161.
2) Historia Anglicana Thomas Walsingham, ed. H.T. Riley, vol. 1, p. 83.
3) Calendar of Close Rolls 1327-1330, p. 182.
4) Smith, 'Edward II and the Allegiance of Wales', p. 167.
5) J.G. Edwards, 'Sir Gruffydd Llywd', English Historical Review, 30 (1915), pp. 596-598; Calendar of Ancient Petitions 319/E388.
6) Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 272-273.
7) Gesta Edwardi de Carnarvon Auctore Canonico Bridlingtoniensi, in W. Stubbs, ed., Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, vol. 2, p. 96; The Chronicle of Lanercost 1272-1346, ed. H. Maxwell, pp. 256-577; Scalacronica: The Reigns of Edward I, Edward II and Edward III as recorded by Sir Thomas Gray, ed. H. Maxwell, p. 73; Cal Close Rolls 1327-1330, p. 212; Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 139, 180, 183, 191, 258. For the record, Donald of Mar's named adherents were: Ralph Chopcok; Ralph Lightred; Adam le Parker; John de Lodyngton; Richard de Egremond; John Lespicer; Stephen Morel; Thomas atte Wall; William de Seint More; William Skakeloc; William and John de Makeseye.
8) Cal Close Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 142, 157, 212; Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 139, 153, 183.
9) Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 238, 242, 256.
10) Adae Murimuth Continuatio Chronicarum, ed. E. M. Thompson, pp. 255-257; Cal Close Rolls 1330-1333, pp. 51, 147, 151; Cal Pat Rolls 1327-1330, pp. 544, 563, 570-572; Calendar of Fine Rolls 1327-1337, pp. 169-170.
11) T.F. Tout, 'The Captivity and Death of Edward of Carnarvon', Collected Papers of Thomas Frederick Tout, vol. iii, pp. 184-185.
12) Annales Paulini 1307-1340, in W. Stubbs, ed., Chronicles of the Reigns of Edward I and Edward II, vol. 1, p. 337.